Marcus Whitman

1802-1847. Presbyterian medical missionary. Born at Rushville, New York, he qualified in medicine and for eight years practiced in Canada and New York. In 1835 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent him to study the possibility of Indian missions in the American Northwest. In 1836 his new bride Narcissa and a small missionary band accompanied him across the Rockies, founding a chain of mission stations in the Walla Walla River Valley. Encouraging at first, his work encountered multiplying obstacles. In the fall of 1842 he began a famous 3,000-mile horseback journey to Boston, convincing the Board to rescind its decision to close part of the work. He conferred with government officials in Washington and returned in 1843 with immigrants to the Oregon Territory. Due to a tragic misunderstanding, Cayuse Indians murdered him, his wife, and twelve others.